- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2004


The Supreme Court said yesterday it would consider two immigration cases that will clarify when people can be deported after being convicted of crimes.

Justices will review appeals from two immigrants, one from Somalia and the other from Haiti, who are fighting to remain in the United States. Their cases will be argued next fall.

Keyse Jama from Somalia urged the court to stop the government from sending immigrants back to countries that have not agreed to take them back. Jama was convicted of assault in Minnesota, and a judge ordered his deportation because of the crime.

Jama’s attorney told justices that deportation would endanger his client and be impractical. John Lunseth of Minneapolis said the plan was to put Jama on a flight into Somalia, where “he would become a stateless person with no travel documents or identity papers in a war-torn region with no central government.”

But Solicitor General Theodore Olson told the justices that since 1997 about 200 aliens have been returned to Somalia.

In the other case, justices will decide whether immigrants can face deportation if they hurt someone in a drunken-driving accident. The question is whether a DUI accident that causes injury is a “crime of violence,” which allows the government to starts deportation proceedings.

Justices will hear an appeal from a native of Haiti who was convicted in an accident in 2000 in the Miami area. Josue Leocal, 47, was sentenced to more than two years in prison on the felony charge.

Also yesterday, the state of Washington lost an appeal to the Supreme Court to save its wide-open primary-election system, an expected setback that forces state leaders to find a new way for political parties to choose candidates for office.

The state’s nearly 70-year-old system allows voters to pick nominees from any political party, which the Supreme Court said in 2000 violates the political parties’ right to choose their own nominees.

The high court already had ruled that so-called “blanket primaries,” which also had been used in Alaska and California, are unconstitutional.

Washington, the last holdout for blanket primaries, argued its system was different and urged the court to intervene to keep it intact. Justices declined, without comment.

In other actions, the court:

• Refused to take up billboard advertising rights, in an appeal from a Texas lawyer whose large sign urged motorists to refuse to cooperate with police searches.

• Rejected appeals from four persons convicted of illegally smuggling lobsters from Honduras into the United States. Three of the four received eight-year prison sentences, and critics argued that the punishments did not match the offenses.

• Declined to hear a challenge to government secrecy in the case of a former waiter, Mohamed Kamel Bellahouel, who might have served some of the September 11 hijackers.

• Declined to consider whether the government improperly loosened rules for underground coal-mining operations, changes that critics contend threaten beautiful parkland and other treasured sites.

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